“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
The opportunity to learn from a mentor can do more for a small business owner than any course, educational program, or degree. Being a mentee means you get the benefit of first-hand experience, without having to make all the mistakes yourself.
There are, in fact, a host of reasons why a well-matched mentor is an invaluable asset for an entrepreneur. You’ll have someone you can trust and confide in, lean on for advice, bounce new ideas off of, and get help refining your business plans.
Read on to learn how to connect with a mentor and get the most out of a mentor-mentee relationship.
Finding the right fit
The first step to seeking out a mentor is to know the kind of guidance you and your business would most benefit from, right now.
For business owners in the early start up stage, someone who can provide advice for surviving the first few lean years—and someone you can touch base with more often—may be the perfect fit.
In this scenario finding a mentor with experience in your industry is a plus, but not absolutely necessary (which can make your search for a mentor a bit easier).
If you’re in a highly specialized field (like IT), if you’re running a business in a niche market, or if you’re at the point where you’re ready to scale, you’ll likely want to narrow your search to a more selective pool of mentors with pertinent experience.
Where to look for a mentor
Start your search for a mentor in your current network. Think about who you know through your previous jobs, educational history, professional associations, and the local business community.
Your social media networks can be a great place to find a mentor, too. Be sure to get the word out via your LinkedIn groups, the Twitterverse, and Facebook. You never know who might be out there, just on the periphery of your social network, by one or two degrees of separation.
Another option is to search for organizations in your area—like Australia’s International Business Mentors—that help match up business owners with trained mentors.
Alternatives mentoring opportunities
Let’s face it: all business owners are busy people. And although it’s most beneficial to meet with a mentor consistently, doing so in person on a regular basis can be a challenge for both parties.
For some mentors and mentees what works best are facetime chats. Other options to consider are “flash mentoring” via quick lunch hour sessions, or connecting with a mentoring group that meets online. If you’re willing to pay to work with a mentor, a group scenario can also help reduce costs.
To get the most of out of mentoring—and to demonstrate how valuable your mentor’s help has been—be sure to follow up on your progress. A mentor will appreciate hearing how you’ve put their advice to work, your milestones and successes, and the goals you’d like to work on in the future. Acknowledging your progress will help you stay motivated, too, by seeing how far you’ve come.